Meet the Australian Breakout Star of Mary Poppins Returns

The only Australian actor on the Mary Poppins Returns set, Tarik Frimpong, talks playing Angus, working with Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda and making "Trip a Little Light Fantastic

By Ashley Spencer Jan 20, 2019 11:27 PMTags
Mary Poppins Returns, Cast, European PremiereGareth Cattermole/Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

In 2016, Melbournian Tarik Frimpong packed his bags and boarded a one-way flight to London on a leap of faith. The then-21-year-old dancer had never been to Europe and hoped, he says, to find "more opportunity over there".

Within the year, he'd landed a role in Disney's Mary Poppins Returns opposite Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, singing and dancing around lamp posts as a leerie named Angus.

"I remember being on set on the first day and thinking, I have to play it so cool right now and not embarrass myself," the now-24-year-old tells E! News.

Spoiler alert: He managed just fine. Here, Frimpong tells E! News about his whirlwind journey from Victorian theatre kid to big-screen star.

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On his life before Mary Poppins Returns
"My mum owns a dance school in Reservoir in Victoria, and I grew up dancing there. That's where I learned about performing arts. I've done quite a bit of theatre in Australia, including The Lion King [as Young Simba], Bring It On: The Musical, and now I'm currently touring with Madiba the Musical."

On landing the role of Angus
"The audition process was quite long. It started off with a dance round because obviously dancing was something that was required of the character. That was over two full days of grueling dancing and then they made cuts. After that, I was asked to come back in and sing. After that, I was asked to come back and act and read for the part.

"I was lucky enough to get the call that I got the part and that was just an insane, insane moment. I just remember being overwhelmed with emotion, especially being overseas and not having family and close friends with me in London. As soon as I got off that call I called my mum. She was my first dance teacher, so sharing with her was such a special experience. And then I started work on the film in November 2016."

On the making of "Trip a Little Light Fantastic"
"The process was intense but magical at the same time. The number I'm in, 'Trip a Little Light Fantastic', is a massive dance routine, so we had a four-week rehearsal process just for that song. That meant being there at least five days a week and just smashing it out every day with an incredible team and incredible choreographers, including [director] Rob Marshall who's also the director and very hands on with the choreography. It was just the craziest experience. In total, I did probably six to seven weeks on set."

On working with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt
"Oh my god, that was a dream. It was beyond a dream. I've always wanted to perform the work of Lin-Manuel because he's obviously Broadway royalty, and his works aim to increase cultural diversity in the performing arts. So to suddenly land a job where I wasn't going to be doing his work but literally sharing lines with and dancing alongside Lin-Manuel himself was just insane.

"I remember being on set on the first day and thinking, I have to play it so cool right now and not embarrass myself. But he was so lovely to me on and off set, and both he and Emily made me feel extremely comfortable, with this being my first feature film debut.

"At one point, Emily gave me and a few of the other dancers some advice about auditioning. She said just to trust yourself and your ability and know that the casting team on the other side of the table doesn't want you fail, they want you to be incredible and be the right person. It's helped me to change my mindset."

On being the only Australian actor on set
"My accent was quite different to the predominantly English or American cast, and some of my lingo people laughed at because I don't think they were expecting me to be Australian. My audition tape was in a cockney accent, so to suddenly meet the director and crew first hand and talk to them in my voice, they were surprised."


On mastering a cockney accent
"Cockney was something I had in my back pocket and when I found out I had the audition I put a lot of effort into it. Once on set, we had an incredible dialect coach called Sandra Butterworth, and she helped grasp the accent in its entirety.

"Lin and I were both up there giving our best cockney accents, and then behind-the-scenes it was him with his American accent and me with my Australian accent, which was pretty funny."

On "climbing" Big Ben
"I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say here! I guess all I can say is, for all the people who live in London I don't think too many can say that they've been lucky enough to physically climb Big Ben, so I'm super glad I had that experience while in London, especially alongside Lin. That's one for the books, for sure."

On seeing himself on screen for the first time
"I saw the film in its entirety for the first time at the world premiere in Hollywood. When I was watching it, I felt physically ill. It was the first time I was going to see the work I had done almost a year and a half ago. And I was seeing that old piece of work for the first time on a huge screen in front of a crowd full of the Who's Who of Hollywood. My stomach was definitely in a knot, but then as soon as 'Trip a Little Light Fantastic' started playing, I was like, wow. This is something incredibly special, and I just remember thinking, I can't wait until my mum gets to see this."


On what's next for his career
"There are a few projects in the works that I can't really talk about yet. There's a particular project that might mean I'm headed back to London sooner rather than later.

"I would absolutely love to collaborate with Lin again. And I felt really honoured and really thankful that Rob Marshall and John DeLuca took a liking to me and saw something in me. For that, I'm incredibly grateful. Rob has changed the direction of my career and probably my life, and I'm really lucky to have had conversations with him that are super special to me. He really gave me the confidence to do screen acting not just theatre and dance. When Rob Marshall tells you to go get it, you've got to go get it."

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